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October 17, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-10-17

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Number 49 Night Editor: Tommy Jacobs

Sunday, October 17, 1971




exil e










11WAS a big day for the 10-year-
old. For the first time, his mother
was letting him go into 'town alone
on an errand. Clutching the money
for the stamps in his hand, he walked
into the heart of Monroe, past the
pillars of the Post Office to the coun-
ter inside. His errand complete, he
trotted down the steps and across the
Then he heard them. Coming up
the side of the street was the chief
of nol~ie--dray ing a young black
woman by her foot. A crowd gathered
to watch the woman cry out as her
head scraned along the concrete.
It was a fairly- common sight in the
North Carolina town, for the woman
was renuted to be a drunk. But for
yono- Rob, it was something to-
tallv new.
u . 'red in di helief as the wo-
man was dragged to the jail. And he
never forgot the laughing faces of
the whites-or the black men run-
ning fearfully away.
THTiRTY-SIX vears have passed
sand Robert Williams is again watch-
ing someone "get dragged through
the steets of Monroe." This time it
is himself. But his crime is not
drunkenness. it is a 10-year-old
charge of kidnapinq. And his prison
has not been a small town nolice sta-
tion-it has been the entire world.
Cuba. China, Tanzania, and for
the nast year-Ann Arbor, Mich. No
matter where he goes, the ran pur-
sues him and deprives him of his "to-
Leaving Monroe and the kidnaning
charge. he roamed the world talking
with all kinds of neople,-neople like
Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-tung and Chonu
En-lai. Two years ago, he finally
came home and got a University Job.
Now he waits for someone to decide
what his future will be.
He dresses in Chinese-styled shirts
and brightly colored tunics. And soft-
snoken at 48, he seems the picture of
moderation - which he once might
have been.
By his own definition, he is not a
Communist or a black revolutionary,
but a black nationalist. He was once
president of the Monroe NAACP, but
then things started to change. Once
arrested in a sit-in, he was forced to

march through the streets to the jail.
He saw whites rape and lynch those
of his race. And four times they tried
to kill him. So he armed his black
neighbors, he told them to "meet vio-
lence with violence." And one day the
police caught up with him.
TEN YEARS AGO, Monroe was the
scene of a race riot. The police, wary
of Williams and the other blacks,
put barriers around their neighbor-
hood. But a white couple happened to
be driving through the area and were
stopped and forced from their car.
Williams says he intervened and took
them to his house. They waited two
hours, then left unharmed. Williams
has been waiting ever since.
On a trip to New York, he heard
on the radio that he was wanted for
kidnaping the couple. Knowing Mon-
roe and knowing the police, he felt

casts, they discriminated against him
as a black. So even though he en-
joyed much of the Cuban society, he
decided it was time to leave.
The United States had wanted him
for a crime, but now they didn't want
him back. He tried to return, but was
given special passport forms. He filled
out just the usual papers, but they
said they'd only let his family in. He
then tried Canada, but the answer
came back the same.
Williams doesn't mind red tape-
as long as it's not created especially
for him. So with the continual run-
around, he turned his back on the
He looked around and considered
the possibilities. There were offers
from Sweden and North Vietnam, but
nothing substantial materialized.
However, he'd been to China twice
before, and he'd been invited back.

A crowd gathered to watch the woman c r y out as her
head scraped aiong the concrete . and he never forgot
the laughing faces of the whites-or the black men running
fearfully away.
. *S .. P ..::s:ia :3::sis s -s~ ss ii~ss a l s: e s :-::::si::s s :::s::s : ::::::3:::::9:::::::i::sis s :::::9:3::::: ::;;:s :::;

well, he was still beset by the after-
noon back in Monroe. So after three
years he went one night-and told
Chou En-lai he was ready to go home.
But it wasn't all that easy. To get a
passport, he had to go to Tanzania.
And with U.S. pressure applied, he
had to leave. Meanwhile, he had add-
ed another title to his growing list of
A group of blacks in the United
States had proclaimed the Republic
of New Africa with Williams as its
president. Like their exiled leader,
the RNA had dreams of setting up a
black nation in five Southern states.
And like many things that had hap-
pened to him, Williams didn't know
about his new role until he was al-
ready in it.
Still trying to get home, Williams
made it to London. But once there no
airlines was willing to fly him to the
States. It was "suggested" he go to
Cairo, but Williams wanted to go
home. And instead he found himself
in an English prison, jailed as an
He staged a hunger strike, the
press picked it up, and civil liber-
tarians joined his cause. He filed suit
against TWA and finally flew home,
alone except for two security guards
-there to protect the plane.
After a splashy arrival at Metro
airport, he was picked up by FBI
agents. Then freed on $10.000 bond,
he settled back to wait out his ap-
neal of Gov. Milli'en's order that he
must go back to North Carolina. He
tried to look good. he left the senara-
tist RNA. Then, with the time gained,
he snent a year in a tiny office above
the Michigan Theater, in the Center
for Chinese Studies.
TUNDER A Ford Foundation grant,
Williams wrote a book on the Chinese
Cultural Revolution. In addition, he
advived students who sought his help
and consulted with his colleagues.
When China became "in" last sum-
mer, he spoke on a few nanels. But
above all else, he simply tried to
stav out of trouble.
Yet even his peace at the Univer-
sity was sometimes disturbed. The
FBI questioned him at his office.
They snoke with peonle who lived in
his apartment building. And the
neighbors were surprised to hear the
FBI calling that "nice Mr. Williams"
a black revolutionary.
But his year at the University
ended last week. And so it seems did
his time. For just asuhis fellowship
ran out, the state courts denied his

-Daily-Jinm Jadkis

he would never get a fair trial there.
So he went to Canada, then fearing
extradition back to the United States,
he left the country for Cuba.
CUBA MEANT Radio Free Dixie and
a chance to broadcast a militant line
to blacks in the South. The man who
had gone to colleges fOr three years
before flunking out, suddenly had
himself a massive audience-and a
collision with the Communist party.
He had assumed the stance of a
black nationalist since his early
years in Monroe. But the Cuban par-
ty took the position that blacks
should achieve equality only through
a socialist revolution with white
workers. They didn't feel, as Wil-
liams did, that blacks would have
to go it alone.
Toward the end of his four-year
stay, the party said he was "coun-
ter-revolutionary" and a "plant" by
the CIA. They "sabotaged" his broad-

And with his sons already studying
there, he made his mind up to go.
THE CULTURAL Revolution was
the time, the Peace Compound his
home. He shared the Italian embas-
sy-turned apartment building with
25 other families, and lived as a re-
fugee. He was given two cooks, two
cleaners, and a chauffeur by the
government-because he had been
"oppressed." He spent his days soak-
ing up the country-visiting factor-
ies and observing its tumultous
changes. His nights were filled with
writing-letters, diaries, and "The
Crusader in Exile", his newsletter to
40,000 blacks at home.
There were May Day speeches with
Mao Tse-tung and friendships with
the Chinese people. Even a movie,
called "Robert Williams in China,"
was made of his stay. He was wined
and dined like a sort of "U.S. diplo-
matic corps." And though treated

but only if they ask him as an ex-
pert, not a subversive.
And he just can't understand it.
The government will give Huey New-
ton a passport to pay a visit to China.
Yet Williams "has an invitation" and
he's not allowed to go. For the coun-
try who tried so hard to keep him
out, is now trying its best to keep
him in.
* ~* *
HE ISa difficult man to pinpoint
politically. He's the Bobby Seale of
our parents' generation or a Martin
Luther King with a gun. He. is not a
Communist, but he is a black na-
tionalist. And his main creed is
spelled "self-determination."
"It's a . simple thing," he says.
"We'd build a nation where all peo-
ple will be equal. White people could
live there, they just would be barred

"Angela and Huey have
said they are Communists.
So the white left said, These
are good d a rk i e s,' and
aroused - !ublic sentiment.
But I have to carry on my
case alone, even paying for
my cttornev's fees."

the American people, "there has been
no solid advocate who can show it is
something people should aspire to."
And when hebegins!to explain self-
determination, when he speaks of
wanting to "travel and see what the
mood of the country is" and "give
people the benefit of his experiences,"
it seems he'd really like to be that
' advocate.
Except for the future of extradi-
tion he still must face.
WILLIAMS' life remains suspend-
ed. The government dropped the
charges long ago against four co-
defendants in the kidnaping case,
but they still won't forget about him.
There's the'knowledge he has -that
they won't let him share. And the
bind that when he wants to come or
go, they always have other ideas.
But to him, the greatest irony is
that no one wants to help him.
"I'm here at the University, work-
ing among them every day, and I'm
being railroaded back to North Caro-
lina. Have you heard anyone say, we
should stand up and try to save him'?"
"Angela and Huey have said they
are Communists. So the white left
said, 'These are good darkies.' and
aroused public sentiment. But I have
to carry on my case alone, even pay-
ing for my attorney's.fees."
"Most people don't know about my
indictment and most * people just
don't care."
SO HE'S cleared out his office in
the Chinese Studies center and
picked up his belongings in his Ann
Arbor apartment. And if he sticks to
his plans, he'll probably head to
Idlewild, a black town in the "coun-
He wants to "read, write, think,
nrav, and try and be a hermit." And
nerhaps get a taste of self-determi-
nat ion.
But he's also girding himself for
what may be his last confrontation.
The governor and state courts have
beard his anneals, but he still will be
sent to the South. He files complaints
with the Justice Dent., his lawyers in-
vestigate federal anpeals. But he
knows it won't make a difference.
"Cause even a crash program in jus-
tide can't save the country now."
TEN YEARS AGO, Williams might
have gone peacefully back to North
Carolina because he felt there was
still some hone. But since that time,
he has learned the "lesson of Attica."
And despite his moderate demeanor,
there is still a core of toughness, nur-
tured by the prison, the world in
which he has lived.



And once again Williams


himself at a crossroads. Try a trip
across the border again? And maybe
never come back? Move to the Michi-
gan countryside? And wait for some-
thing to happen? End the years of
wandering and running by going
back to Monroe? Or what about re-
* *- *
THE STATE POLICE reported last
week-that Williams was seen, leav-
ing town with a U-Haul truck. The
man who'd known Fidel Castro, the
friend of Chou En-lai, the former
president of the RNA-pulling out of
Ann Arbor with a U-Haul truck.
Just like any middle American. Ex-
cept his destination was supposed to
be Canada-or so the police thought.
He didn't leave Ann Arbor then-
but one day soon he might. And when
he goes, he'll probably be more alone
than he has ever been before.
The right calls him a "traitor" for
advocating black self-determination.
The white left brands him a "Fas-
cist" and a "black racist." He was
booed at the People's Peace Confer-
ence here for "not being a Communist
and being critical of Cuba." He's a
martyr, he's a maniac. Political ac-
tivists, even blacks, just don't know
what teM a ef him

from power. But thev would live un-
der protection of the law, unmolested.
It would be the U.S. government's
duty to compensate all people who
live in that area rwho want to leave.
And the government should do as
thev do for every underdeveloned
country--help with its technical de-
"I view senaratism like a. man and
wife who are having a difficult time
and can't get on. What would be the
proper thing? That thPv have
knives at each other's throats,
threatening to kill each other? What
would nernie a dvocate for them?-
neaceful separatioln and division of
pronertv. Why is it co difficult for
whites to accept this?"
THE VFARS have taught him to
be careful with words. The rantings
of the fanatics, the rhetoric of the
left have. made him wvarv of what Ia-
be's can connote. AmPricans east off
China as "that Marxict-T.Pninist
state," he says without realizing the
cultural example it sets for our coun-
try. He talks of self-determination

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